OTR Interviews

Issa: Holder Was 'Dodging At Best, Lying, Perhaps' About 'Fast and Furious'

Rep. Darrell Issa details his subpoena of Attorney General Eric Holder in the botched 'Fast and Furious' gun-running sting

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 12, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: A subpoena has just been served on the Justice Department in the "Fast and Furious" scandal. This subpoena goes straight to the top of the Justice Department. Chairman of the House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed documents from the office of the Attorney General Eric Holder. We spoke with Congressman Darrell Issa a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Chairman, nice to see you, sir.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me back on, Greta.

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VAN SUSTEREN: You subpoenaed the attorney general. Why?

ISSA: No, no. We subpoenaed records from the attorney general. The attorney general has been invited by the Judiciary Committee and we hope he will come and explain the inconsistencies in his last testimony.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did you invite him? Is he willing to come?

ISSA: We believe he will. Chairman Lamar Smith asked him to come before a joint session of our committee and his committee. He couldn't do the dates we asked but they are negotiating other dates right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: There is no resistance from the attorney general to come here to Capitol Hill and of it in front of your committee.

ISSA: I can't say there's no resistance but he will have to clear the air by answering fully and completely what he knew and when he knew it and why he didn't know it if that's the case, because obviously his key lieutenants did know a great deal about Fast and Furious.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you ask him that before?

ISSA: I asked on May 3rd and he said I didn't know. I would like the opportunity to ask him more thoroughly.

VAN SUSTEREN: When you asked him on May 3rd did you and him why he didn't know.

ISSA: The amazing thing was he said he only knew two weeks before. We only had five minutes. Jason Chaffetz followed up a little bit. We were, quite frankly, sort of astonished he said he didn't know. We believed at that time that so many people knew that it was hard to believe he wouldn't be further briefed, particularly after Brian Terry was killed. One would think if a law enforcement officer was murdered by weapons that had been allowed to walk that the attorney general would be informed.

VAN SUSTEREN: When were you first briefed about what was going on in operation "Fast and Furious"?

ISSA: Never.

VAN SUSTEREN: Never?

ISSA: Never. The fact is we had a briefing on drugs, we asked about guns, they gave us information on the number of guns and so on. They never mentioned Fast and Furious by name. Kenneth Melson was in that briefing.

More importantly, it's very clear that that's intended to be, if you will, a way to imply that I knew. Greta, if I knew, I would have stopped it. More importantly, it wasn't my obligation to know about "Fast and Furious." It was the attorney general's obligation to make sure it didn't happen.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have reason to be suspicious that the attorney general actually knew what was going on with Fast and Furious, not simply he flew there was an operation out there called "Fast and Furious"?

ISSA: We knew that Lanny Breuer was operationally involved. We knew the chief of staff was --

VAN SUSTEREN: What was does that mean, "operationally involved"? They knew what was going on?

ISSA: There are direct reports, doing wiretap approval. As you know, wiretap requests are incredible detail in order to get that through a judge. The detail of that we have on very good authority was, in fact, so detailed it would be hard not to know that guns were walk, that you knew who they were walking to and in fact you knew the names of the people who were in the conduit line.

We knew Lanny Breuer knew it or at least his key people knew it. And you have to say, OK, who was it that thought this was OK because we can't find competent, legal people who think this was OK to do. What we have is the Justice Department repeatedly denying that they ever let guns walked now we have proof they did let guns walk and they were concerned about it in their e-mails even after we were told they didn't let them walk.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you subpoenaed or asked Lanny Breuer to come here and of it.

ISSA: We have not subpoenaed Lanny Breuer.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why not?

ISSA: The documents we are looking for, as you know from discovery, there's a process. The process is you ask for the hard information.

VAN SUSTEREN: Or you could call Lanny Breuer up here and say you are the number two or three, I'm not exactly sure what his rank is at the justice department and say what did you know and when did you know it?

ISSA: In time asking each of these individuals may be appropriate, but we want to be respectful of the legitimate process of investigation. Asking for the documents is the appropriate way to inform our investigators before we start asking individuals. This was true when we went through the various gun sale shops and also true when we interviewed the various people local to phoenix.

VAN SUSTEREN: You subpoenaed, you say, documents. E-mails?

ISSA: Emails related to "Fast and Furious," obviously additional briefing materials, memos produced about this, if you will, "Fast and Furious," and, quite frankly, memos that may be about coverup.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know of any memos that lead to the White House at all or information of checks o'clock exchange with the White House? Do you have any reason to believe the White House may have known about the operation?

ISSA: Yes, we do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tell me.

ISSA: We know there was direct correspondence. We have been told the correspondence was between two friends who just happened to include this information. We've asked for --

VAN SUSTEREN: Friends in the White House?

ISSA: Friends in law enforcement to a friend in the White House who was on the national security team. Now, we're not overly concerned about that, but we have to -- we have to follow the facts where they lead so we've asked for what correspondence did occur with the White House.

Again, Greta, we don't think this was an operation conducted from the Oval. We do believe this was an operation thought of probably locally, approved nationally, and allowed to continue to where Americans and Mexicans have died as a result.

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VAN SUSTEREN: Now we have much more with Congressman Issa straight ahead. He had some very harsh words for the attorney general.

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(NEWS BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: We continue with Congressman Darrell Issa.

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VAN SUSTEREN: You have subpoenaed these documents. Have you tried to ask for them through subpoena because the subpoena serving ratcheted up the tension between Capitol Hill and the Justice Department and the White House? Have you asked for it and has it been denied or they are slow to get it to you?

ISSA: Greta, we have been slow rolled even when we had is. But we asked repeatedly, we negotiated. What we found is they mark virtually everything as law enforcement sensitive, treats it as classified material. The materials tell us they are deliberately redacting beyond what we believe is reasonable.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any reason to believe the attorney general of the United States new about the operation that was going on with "Fast and Furious" prior to his testimony in may?

ISSA: He certainly knew the name "Fast and Furious."

VAN SUSTEREN: But the actual operation who was going on, because that's the controversy.

ISSA: No, Greta, the controversy is he swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When he answered, I only learned about it a couple weeks ago, he certainly was not answering fully he knew about the name, knew x, y or z about it, but didn't understand it fully if that's the case. The obligation of candor, the duty of candor is something clearly the attorney general didn't meet in that testimony before that committee and before my questioning.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you think he wasn't telling the truth?

ISSA: I said he didn't meet a duty of candor.

VAN SUSTEREN: But if someone is not -- if you are not being straight, you are not telling the truth. I mean if you are dodging, you are asked a question straight up --

ISSA: Greta, I believe the attorney general was dodging at best, lying, perhaps, but more likely dodging. He certainly knew "Fast and Furious." He should have said I have known about "Fast and Furious" for months or a year. I did not know certain details. Then we could have had the legitimate follow-up on those details.

His duty of candor, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth should have caused him to at least give us the information that clearly I was looking for, which is when did you know about the operation called "Fast and Furious"? His answer was only a few weeks ago. That did not meet the legitimate test of a top law enforcement officer who is sworn to give the whole truth.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you give a little latitude that there's a lot going on as attorney general. For instance we know what happened with the latest terrorism plot we've been working on for several months.

ISSA: He knew enough to do a press conference. He knew enough to get a lot of PR.

Look, I can't give you a pass as a very smart lawyer, I can't give the top law enforcement officer a pass. I'm candidly speaking before Congress when asked before a question and answering.

Having said that, he certainly has an opportunity to answer questions fully and completely and honestly. Yes, it will be tougher than if he had answered them correctly the first time but he has an opportunity to say I found out about Fast and Furious at this point. I found out about "Fast and Furious" more or not more when Brian Terry was murdered.

And then the follow-up questions quite candidly by the Judiciary Committee, not by my committee, have to be, if you knew about "Fast and Furious" or you knew about Brian Terry being killed, and he certainly did, why was did you didn't know that these weapons came from "Fast and Furious"? That this operation had deliberately let these guns walk? And what are you doing to the individuals who reported to you who didn't keep you fully briefed on something in which an American had been murdered?

Those questions are questions for judiciary and for the president. Do you have confidence in the top law enforcement officer if he is so detached that he said I can't read all this stuff, and by the way, I didn't know anything in detail about something in which an American border patrol had been murdered and in fact plenty of people felt that the border had died as a result of these weapons.

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